Sermon “Jesus Our Healer” Mark 3:1-6 Audio Link http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23575548/120129Mark3.mp3
Lord Jesus Christ, our Sabbath-Day's Rest, bring us your healing and grace, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
We have already read today about God raising up another prophet like Moses. And we realize, if we think about it for about half a minute, that the prophet like Moses is Jesus, the one who sees God face to face, who brings God's word without any error, who serves as the true mediator between man and God.
We have also read about how our Lord has proclaimed all things clean, but that we bind ourselves in our consciences, not trusting the Lord. We can deceive ourselves into trusting in the purity of our own flesh, our own consecration to God, rather than trusting in the perfect work of Jesus, who became sin for us so that sin may be condemned and we would not have to bear it any more.
Yet during this time of Epiphany we want to see more. It's still the time of year for realization of our Lord's mercy. It's still the time to see that Jesus is working in his people, that he is accomplishing his purposes, and today, to see that Jesus is in fact the God who comes to heal us.
If you have been keeping up with our Bible reading challenge, you read Mark's Gospel this week and began to read the book of Exodus. In both places you saw our God delivering his people from the bondage of sin. And you saw that ultimately that deliverance from the bondage of sin happens through the work of Jesus who died for you, and it is realized in the context of the people of God assembled together, learning to walk in this forgiveness that Jesus has purchased. This is one of the reasons that we urge people to being faithful in attendance at church. It is in the context of Christ's assembled people, the visible church, that we realize Jesus' work for us. It is in the context of the church gathered together that we see how we are members of one another. And in our readings today we see that it is in the context of the people of God gathered together for worship that we receive the healing and grace that we need.
We already read one of the passages from Mark where Jesus heals a man in the synagogue on a Sabbath day. But I'd like to pull us to another of those passages for our sermon today. We see over and over again in the Scripture that Jesus is doing his healing work, again and again, as far as there is need for healing. He didn't stop with casting out a demon in the synagogue. He went on to heal someone of another ailment at another time. And he keeps coming to his people over and over again until he has healed them all.
Rise with me, if you can, as we read the Gospel from Mark, the third chapter (NIV).
1 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Let us then observe three elements of this Gospel which our Lord has delivered to us. First, that we who are sick, disabled, in bondage are present in the assembly. Second, that as we are assembled together we are in the right place for our Lord to do good, to heal, to deliver. And finally, that our Lord is the one who delivers his people from bondage, no matter what.
The sick man is here in the synagogue. In the first Gospel reading we had today he was bound by a demon. In this second passage he is disabled. Do we realize that the Church is the place for people who are weak, who are broken, who are tormented? Or do we put on a facade of wellness? I wonder just how many of us came in today planning to lie to everyone else and say that we were doing well even though we aren't? Now I don't want to encourage everyone to come to the divine service so as to have a time to dump our frustrations on everyone else who is here. It isn't a good idea to come in and sing a litany of every possible complaint that we have. That isn't going to build anyone up. But are there some of us who are aching, who are tormented with our sin, who are fearful for our families' well-being, for our jobs, for our health, for our futures? Are there some of us who come in weak and sorrowful, heavily burdened, and tell everyone else that everything is wonderful? Should we not rather come into this place, ask someone to pray for us, even without telling many details, and commit ourselves to our Lord's care? It doesn't have to become a complaint session. In fact, it shouldn't become a complaint session. It becomes a prayer time instead.
Let me give you an example. I don't think it will betray any confidences. I had an encounter recently which draws a good picture of what we can all be doing. It happened to me because I was dressed in my pastor uniform. I walked into a nursing home to visit with someone. As is my custom, I greeted those people I saw in the hallways in a friendly manner and asked them how they were. One lady shook her head and said she was terrible. I asked her what was wrong. She said she was in a lot of pain with a back problem and was going for surgery shortly. I laid my hand on her shoulder and prayed that the Lord would bless her and protect her from pain and distress, that he would give her his joy and peace. Enough said. I haven't seen her since, nor do I remember her name, though I think I might remember her face next I see her.
Can we pray for one another in such a way? We don't need a complete history of the situations that are troubling. We don't need to try to give advice and counsel. We are gathered as God's people on Sunday so as to come before his throne and receive from him. Do we do it? Or do we put on a show of wellness and come and go without receiving the healing and grace that we need?
You might notice that on Sunday mornings people tend to come into the nave, the seating area of the church building, and that it is pretty quiet in here. We try to keep the conversations out in the narthex and in the fellowship hall. This is the place for worship and prayer. This is the place we have set aside to look to our Lord in hope, expecting his mercy. But I'd like to encourage you. If you are troubled, gather some others and pray for one another. Fill this room with your prayers, as our Lord fills it with his gracious presence.
We come in here as the sick and troubled. And we see, second, that it is the place to receive God's deliverance. Just as the man with the demon or the man with the shriveled hand came to hear from God's word, just as they received the blessing of Jesus who was there with them, we also gather in this place to hear the life-giving words of the Gospel. We gather together knowing that where we are together in Christ he is also here to bring reconciliation. We gather together knowing that Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us, to be with us always. We gather together to sit at the feet of Jesus, the one who teaches us, who encourages us, who exhorts us, who has the words of life for us, who gives himself for our sin, who himself bears all our iniquities, and by whose stripes we are healed. Is there any wonder that we have trouble in our society? We are a people who turn everywhere except our Lord's mercy and grace when we are troubled. Is there any wonder that we raise children who look for a fix for every difficulty in medical treatment when we decide that character issues are best treated with sedatives? Is it any wonder that we have a generation of young people who don't know how to interact with older or younger people when they are sent to age-segregated schools, when they are taken away from the realities of life in an intergenerational church body so they can experience teen togetherness, and who are taught that they are social misfits so should be separated from any sort of larger community? We take on our secular culture's model of how to raise good and compliant citizens and then we're surprised when our culture tries to rule us. And all along we have departed from the view that says God's assembled people can live and work together as the community of Christ's grace. We have departed from looking to the Church as that living entity where people are raised up as citizens for the Lord. We have departed from looking to our Lord as the one who is present to heal us. So we have to turn elsewhere. It won't work. It won't work. Jesus is the one who comes to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Let us look to him as the one who is present in the context of this body called the Church. This is exactly the right place.
Finally, we see that Jesus is the one who comes to give that forgiveness, life, and salvation. He is the one who has broken into the lives of those people assembled in the synagogue. He is the one who has broken into the life of the man with the demon, into the life of the man with the shriveled hand. Jesus is the one who has come to bring them healing. And he does it despite the people who are plotting to arrest him and kill him. He does it despite the people who deny that he is who he says he is. He does it despite the hardness of hearts in the people who do not wish the Sabbath to be a time for healing. Jesus is the one who loves us and gives himself for us. Jesus, in fact, is the one who literally loves us to death – his own death. He is the one who loves us and gives himself for us while we are yet sinners. He is the one who hates our sin so much that he will take it upon himself and die under its curse. He is the one who has come to fulfill all the law which became a curse to us since we could not keep it. He is the one who will not stop working his righteousness in us as long as we need it – forever.
What does this tell you about your Savior? Is he not the one we need? Is he not the one we come to in faith? Is he not the one all our friends, all our neighbors, even all our enemies need? And where are we going to receive from our Lord? We will receive from him in the context of the Church, Christ's people assembled, gathering together, as one body, a family, with one Lord, being converted by one faith, one baptism, looking to the one God and Father of us all. This is the message of the Gospel. This is the place to receive from the Gospel. Let us never forget the precious faith which our Lord has given us, as we gather together to receive from our Lord and Savior.
Let us pray. Our Lord, grant that we may see you as the one who is present, present to heal us, to cleanse us, to forgive us, to equip us with all the grace we need to be witnesses to your Gospel. As you show yourself to be the healing God in our midst, reach out through us to this community. Call many to yourself in faith, believing that you are the Lord who saves us, for you ever live to make intercession for us, one God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.